Propers are not “minor”
  • I have noticed several weblogs and Facebook posts attempting to apply the term “minor propers” to the Roman Catholic Mass.

    Churches that broke away from the Catholic Church—Episcopal, Anglican, etc.—use the term minor propers, and that's fine. They can do as they wish.

    But can anyone cite a Roman Catholic document from, say, 1850-1960 applying this term to the Catholic Mass?

    (Remember, documents and authors who are part of churches which broke away from the Catholic church don't count.)
  • Sorry, the propers in question are 'minor' or 'lesser', the habit of referring to them simply as 'the propers' notwithstanding.

    There are two classes of propers for a mass. One, the 'major', or 'greater' propers, being the day's collect, lesson, epistle, and gospel. The other, the 'minor', or 'lesser' propers, being the introit, gradual or psalm, alleluya with its verse (or the tract), offertory antiphon, and communion antiphon.

    As is obvious, calling the lesser propers 'minor' or 'lesser' does not imply that they are of little or no importance, just that they are inferior to the greater or major propers. Both the lesser and greater propers have it in common that their texts are different for, or 'proper to' each mass (that is why they are called 'propers'). Indeed, they are integral to the mass and there is no juridical, papal, or conciliar warrant or authority for them to have been almost universally ignored and banished in the Roman rite, EF or OF.

    This distinction is of long standing and is quite Catholic in origin and use. The truly sad irony is that, unlike many places in non-Catholicdom, Catholics (in true XVIth century Protestant fashion) threw them overboard after Vatican II - and did so without any justification in Vatican II spirit, documents, or intent.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,465
    Thanks for the great explanation, MJO. A friend used to insist that the "minor propers" were the Gradual and Offertory.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743
    The truly sad irony is that, unlike many places in non-Catholicdom, Catholics (in true XVIth century Protestant fashion) threw them overboard after Vatican II - and did so without any justification in Vatican II spirit, documents, or intent.


    I don't recall anyone throwing them overboard. I do recall that when we were ordered to use English instead of Latin, there were no translations of those Propers. It was nine (9) years before they were translated into English. By then, everyone had moved on to something else. People can forget many things that disappear for that long.
    Thanked by 1bhcordova
  • M. Jackson Osborn wrote:

    Sorry, the propers in question are 'minor' or 'lesser', the habit of referring to them simply as 'the propers' notwithstanding. There are two classes of propers for a mass. One, the 'major', or 'greater' propers, being the day's collect, lesson, epistle, and gospel. The other, the 'minor', or 'lesser' propers, being the introit, gradual or psalm, alleluya with its verse (or the tract), offertory antiphon, and communion antiphon. As is obvious, calling the lesser propers 'minor' or 'lesser' does not imply that they are of little or no importance, just that they are inferior to the greater or major propers.


    No need to say sorry.

    If what you say is accurate, it should be very easy for you to cite a source backing up the argument you're trying to make. (cf. what I wrote above)

    Are you able to do this?
  • Charles -

    I was organist at a liturgically important (at that time) Houston Catholic church from '64-'69 - I was sought out and chosen at St Ambrose precisely because I was Anglican and knew English liturgical aesthetics. We used a red plastic-spiraled book of the lesser propers (in English) for several years, and then we just suddenly and without explanation stopped using them. There was at that time no official translation, and there still isn't. But those who care (who are and have been since the council a minority) used them and continue to with what translations are available. The lesser propers have not ever been officially suppressed and remain banished without any conciliar or papal authority for their banishment. Those who don't sing them don't sing them because they don't want to.

    It occurs to me that the lesser propers have a fatal characteristic which may have led to their banishment from most churches in the wake of the recent council; namely, that they are for cantors, scholae, or choirs to sing - they are not congregational and, therefore, are anthema to the sorts of 'musicians' and 'liturgists' who tend to run things in the vast majority of our churches. Since the minor propers weren't something else for the people to sing they had to go.

    (I don't remember the exact title of the red plastic-spiraled book of the minor propers which I mention above. It very possibly was a GIA publication. Perhaps some others here can recall more about it.)
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,956
    Thanks, Dixit, for asking this question. I've heard the term from other friends involved in AU worship and, like you, I haven't seen this term in any official Catholic documents: at least not yet.

    So I look forward to finding out more about it.
  • I agree with chonak.

    The designation "Minor Propers" is not correctly used with reference to the Roman Catholic Mass, although Anglicans and others remain free to do as they please.

    So far, nobody has been able to produce any documentation such as I describe above.
    Thanked by 1madorganist
  • madorganist
    Posts: 866
    Agreed. And furthermore, properly speaking (see what I did there?), the chants, prayers, and lessons for a single Mass are the Proper of the Mass, not the propers, just as the Kyrie, Gloria, etc. of a single Mass are the Ordinary of the Mass, not ordinaries. Propers should refer to more than one Mass formulary.
    Correct: A soloist sang the Propers throughout the month of July.
    Incorrect: Who sang the Propers for your wedding?
    In the latter example, Proper (i.e., a single set of chants) would be correct.
    Thanked by 2toddevoss CCooze
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743
    Never saw the " red plastic-spiraled book," although it sounds like something it would have been good to have. That was another issue at the time. Many of the old books were tossed, or at least shelved, and new ones were not widely known or available.
  • Andrew_Malton
    Posts: 1,075
    The Latin term is proprium, in the singular, referring to the whole proper of the Mass as opposed to the ordinarium. When did individual acts such as the Alleluia or the Epistle start to be referred to a "a proper" ? I rather think this is a very recent usage, and definitely more Anglican than Catholic: not known in other languages.
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,179
    I was accompanist for a choir which possessed those red spiral-bound books back around '65-'67 or so. Memory is hazy, but GIA sounds right to me, too.

    They collected dust; the Archdiocese (under the control of Rembert Weakland) and the music establishment of the time (led by Sr. Theophane Hytrek OSF) were dead-set on using the four-hymn sandwich.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,576
    when we were ordered to use English instead of Latin, there were no translations of those Propers.

    This is FALSE.
    I have repeadedly pointed to this
    http://musicasacra.com/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=2736#Item_35

    Roman Missal / MISSALE ROMANUM
    Nihil Obstat
    Imprimatur
    (c) 1964

    Pages iii-iv-v-vi contain
    1964 april 2 (USCCB decree authorising the use of English in the liturgy)
    1964 may 1 (Prot n 622/64)
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743
    Maybe where you were, but here in the provinces they were not made available to us. We were told to buy hymnals which supposedly contained everything we needed. They didn't of course, but that was then - The worst of times and the worst of times.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,103
    It's easy to criticize those brave souls of the '60s and '70s for the mess we now have. However, after Vatican II, the various dioceses and parishes were basically set adrift by Rome, with no direction. The conciliar and postconciliar documents were not readily available in English. To even order them, you had to go to a bookseller and know the names of the books the documents you wanted were in. The internet, as we now know it, did not exist. Computers were these humongous machines that took up entire city blocks. It was nowhere near as easy to exchange information as it is today. They were doing the best they could with the meager tools that they had.
    Thanked by 3CharlesW Liam igneus
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743
    Yes!!! "the various dioceses and parishes were basically set adrift by Rome, with no direction." Completely adrift. The only directive was to be "relevant."

    "The internet, as we now know it, did not exist. Computers were these humongous machines that took up entire city blocks." They were, since I later worked with those machines. Anyone else remember punch cards, JCL, and slooooooow?

    "They were doing the best they could with the meager tools that they had." They were indeed meager. I always suspected the larger places fared better, but have learned since that they, for the most part, didn't.

  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,601
    They were doing the worst they could with the meager tools that they had.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743
    Sometimes true.
  • M. Jackson Osborn -

    At my parish, we have a copy of the Complete English Propers for the High Mass for All Sundays and Principal Feasts, edited by Rev. Paul Arbogast, published by World Library of Sacred Music in 1964. It is has a red cover and a red plastic spiral binding. Does this sound familiar?
  • English Propers for the High Mass
    Paul Arbogast
    1964
    World Library of Sacred Music
    A truly wonderful book. It was widely used...for a while.
  • madorganist
    Posts: 866
    FYI the Arbogast available on the resources page. I once had a copy of a book called the Loras Gradual which had English chants in the 1964 Missal translation.
    Thanked by 2eft94530 CHGiffen
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,103
    @CharlesW - We had to be able to read Hollerith code when I took FORTRAN. A friend of mine worked for the university computer center. He had a 300 baud modem at home that he could dial up the universities computer.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW Liam
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743
    I even remember wire boards. It was said at the time that the reason programmers had no hair was wire boards. ;-)
  • Mr Cordova's plea for leniency towards the folk of the post-conciliar times sounds fair enough... except when we recall that the lack of computers and 21st century technology didn't prevent nearly everyone everywhere from doing the same deplorable things to the mass and its music. Somehow, the same anti-paradigm seems to have been shared and communicated quite well. No tears for them. He is correct, though, in that The Vatican provided no leadership at all. It opened a Pandora's box and turned its back or looked the other way. Even when it spoke it was toothless and ignored.
    Thanked by 2CCooze CharlesW
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,582
    It's an interesting question whether there's a Latin adjective to distinguish the Propers pertaining to the choir from those of the priest, though it shouldn't surprise anyone if Anglicans have a head start on English terminology. New Grove sidesteps major/minor and calls its article on the little 5 (the 'big' 5 being what Tinctoris calls cantus magnus, the Ordinary) "Proper chants"; Taruskin's Oxford History divides a table into concentus and accentus. I doubt in any case that Gospel and Alleluia can be considered of equal rank.
  • Perhaps a first step toward restoring the Propers would be to use the correct terminology?

    The term 'minor propers' is simply incorrect for the Catholic Mass—that is why nobody has been able to cite sources that use it.

    The book by Rev. Paul Arbogast does not use the (erroneous) label of 'minor propers.'

    M. Jackson Osborn wrote:

    There are two classes of propers for a mass. One, the 'major', or 'greater' propers, being the day's collect, lesson, epistle, and gospel. The other, the 'minor', or 'lesser' propers, being the introit, gradual or psalm, alleluya with its verse (or the tract), offertory antiphon, and communion antiphon.


    This may be true for Anglican services, but not the Extraordinary Form. Indeed, the EF does not have a “lesson and epistle.” It has only the Epistle. And why would the Collect be a 'greater proper' but not the Secret and not the Post-Communion?

    Let us resolve to assiduously avoid the specious and incorrect term Lesser Propers when we speak of the authentic Catholic Mass.
    Thanked by 2madorganist stulte
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,179
    punch cards, JCL, and slooooooow?


    How about assembler? Flat-files and the wonder-child CICS??

    Or those who no longer exist: Burroughs, NCR, DEC, .....
    Thanked by 2CharlesW bhcordova
  • madorganist
    Posts: 866
    The accentus includes the parts of the Mass chanted to a formula. The concentus chants have their own music or are at least borrowed by centonization. It should be obvious that, musically speaking, the Alleluia is more important than the Gospel. The concentus parts of the Mass along with the antiphons and responsories of the Divine Office were the first things to be written down when systems of musical notation were devised in the tenth century.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,582
    Arbogast does not use...


    Dixit_Dominus_44, I'm getting confused, and maybe not the only one: who exactly is being quoted in your box quote?
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,582
    It should be obvious that, musically speaking, the Alleluia is more important than the Gospel.
    And also musically speaking, a voluntary is perhaps more important than a homily. But why this assumption that "minor" is a put down? Some of us have a very high regard for the Aeolian mode.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,120
    Since nobody else has tackled Richard Mix question re Arbogast:
    Dixit_Dominus_44 is quoting M. Jackson Osborn who referred to a book he remembered which others have identified as English Propers by Fr Paul Arbogast. A book which does not use the expression 'minor propers'.
    Personally I have no objection to importing the term, it would be useful to have an expression which distinguishes the proper texts found in the Lectionary from those found in the Gradual. (though of course some are in both)
  • Since both Alleluya and the Gospel are (supposed to be) sung music, perhaps this line should read..
    ...musically speaking, the Alleluia is more important elaborate than the Gospel.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen JonathanKK
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,134
    And I'm sure that the Jameses are bent out of shape over their nomenclature, too...

    If we have a distinction between the Order of Mass and the Ordinary of the Mass, I see no problem in importing useful terminology to distinguish between to different kinds of Proper texts.
  • ...no problem in importing...

    While I thank Salieri for his comment, I must add that...

    I'm yet to be convinced that this is an importation. I know that I have seen this designation before in Catholic books and heard Catholic priests here and there speak of the lesser or minor propers. Imported or not, one would not have to tax himself greatly to find a usage more threatening to Catholic identity and scholarship. Nor would this, if it were an importation, be the only such importation. We have some forum members, and likely others, who have varying cases of Anglophilia and happily 'import' Anglican chant, envy Anglican liturgical aesthetics, import 'Protestant' hymnody which expresses Catholic truth and is therefore Catholic, and even look to the Orthodox for exemplary liturgics. I am aghast, astonished, at the incredible ostrichian myopia from which this entire discussion arises. Even if the proper nomenclature in question were an import it would be one of the most harmless-yet-informative of the many importations of which the Catholic Church has availed itself. Indeed, it isn't anythng but aedifying. Still, if one is averse to it one doesn't have to use it. And, I'm sure that all of us will continue referring to the lesser propers simply as 'the propers'.

    In closing I shall note that we in the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter now and then speak of the 'lesser propers' - and we ARE quite Catholic.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • madorganist
    Posts: 866
    I see no problem in importing useful terminology to distinguish between to different kinds of Proper texts.
    Are there not at least three distinct categories?
    1. Those prayed by the priest with extended hands on behalf of the whole Church (Collect, Secret, Preface, Postcommunion)
    2. Those chanted by the subdeacon or deacon (Epistle, Gospel)
    3. Those chanted by the schola (Introit, Gradual, Tract, Alleluia, Sequence, Offertory, Communion)

    At least in the traditional rite, there is also a proper Last Gospel at a few Masses, read (not chanted) by the priest for his own devotion.

    Someone stated that it is doubtful that the Gospel and Alleluia can be considered of equal rank. Another suggested that, musically speaking, more elaborate doesn't necessarily mean more important. Fair enough, but would one analyze or compare the Gospels for two Masses, musically speaking, in the same way as, say, the Gradual for Easter Sunday and that of the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost? Unless we mean that the former is sung by a cleric in major orders, whereas the latter was traditionally often sung by a cleric in minor orders, I don't find the major-minor distinction helpful. If we want to adopt a new vocabulary to distinguish the various categories, why not sacerdotal-ministerial-choral/cantorial, or something similar? Is the Gradual or Offertory less a proclamation of the word of God than the Epistle or Gospel?
  • Interesting observations and food for thought, Mad.
    Rich is the lore of liturgy and ritual.

    As for the last gospel, which you mention, it is alive and well in the Ordinariate Use, being said throughout Christmas and Epiphanytide.
    I assume that it lives, as well, in the EF?
  • madorganist
    Posts: 866
    It's normally the prologue to St. John. I believe Palm Sunday at Masses without the procession is the only time there's a proper Last Gospel in the 1962 Missal. The older rubrics have it on Christmas Day, and the even older ones have it when another Mass is commemorated. I suppose we could also add the Communicantes and Hanc igitur variations in the Canon to the list of proper parts of the Mass.
  • stulte
    Posts: 342
    The Propers are the Propers. These labels of major and minor don't seem to serve any purpose. Personally, I find them a bit distasteful. The Propers come as a complete set for each Mass expressing what the Church believes. Why is there a need to rank the Propers within the Mass like this?
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,120
    If we need categories, it is because, as said above, some are particular to the priest, some to the lector, and some to the schola/congregation. And these are found in different books, it is not a matter of ranking but of finding. Furthermore it is not always true in the OF that the set of propers all come together, and in the EF with its commemerations it was certainly not true. Tomorrow, Monday 4th June, our diocesan Ordo, says "at choice, see p.24" and Page 24 "On Ferial days ... one of the 34 Masses of Sundays of OT ... or any saint in the martyrology of the day ... or ... or ..." " readings ... on the day for which they are assigned, ... or ... " and " Opening Prayer is proper or ... " and on and on!
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,421
    @ a_f_hawkins
    Today is of course the second Sunday After Pentecost, all the Propers (E.F.) can be found in the Missal. Of course today was in the older calendar (pre 55) Sunday within the Octave of Corpus Christi, the same Mass as listed above was used with addition of a commemoration of the Octave of Corpus Christi, so you would have additional collects. N.B. Not different Collects (Collect, Secret and Post Communion)

    At our Parish our dedication is to St. Bede, so instead of the II Sunday of Pentecost / Sunday within in the Octave of Corpus Christi we had an external Solemnity of St. Bede, with Commemorations of the Sunday including Last Gospel and commemoration of the Octave of Corpus Christi, so 3 sets of collects!

    Some places would have an External Solemnity of Corpus Christi instead of the Sunday Propers. They should have had some commemoration of the Sunday even using 62!

    So the Propers are fixed to the Mass of the day, with additional collects depending on the Rubrics / Calendar.
  • The argument made above is: “The term Lesser Propers is incorrect, but if we all start using it, it will BECOME correct.”

    What is insufficient about the correct terminology?

    Whence this need to “import” non-Catholic terminology?

    ---

    ROMAN CATHOLIC MASS FORMULARY:

    The Propers: Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory, Communion.

    The Readings: Epistle, Gospel.

    The Orations: Collect, Secret, Post-Communion.

    Preface goes … where?

    ---

    I agree with the person above who said “lesser propers” is confusing and distasteful. For example, calling the Gospel a “major proper” and the Communion a “lesser proper” seems daft, because the Communion antiphon often is a direct quote from the Gospel.

    Once upon a time, Catholics were proud of our liturgical heritage.

    I'm not saying it is impossible to import non-Catholic terminology. I'm just asking why we should do that when we already have terminology that's worked well for a long long time.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,134
    I have only two words to add to this discussion, do with them what you will:

    Mountains

    Molehills
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,000
    Major Mountains, Minor (or Lesser) Molehills?
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,582
    Unless the language police come back with a properly made out warrant I'll not bite anyone who calls Readings and Formularies proper to the day "Propers".
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • madorganist
    Posts: 866
    The Formularies: Collect, Secret, Preface, Post-Communion.
    This is also non-standard. In normal usage, Formulary and Proper are synonymous. In many contexts, Mass will suffice. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
    The formulary of a Mass consists of the liturgical texts that constitute the variable parts of the Mass, namely the Introit, Prayer, Epistle, Gradual, and Tract, and sometimes also the Sequence, Gospel, Offertory, Secret, Communion, and Post-Communion.
    Also, how would you categorize a novus ordo Mass where the "major propers" and spoken and the "minor propers" are sung? Pretty much the rule for Papal Masses nowadays, no?
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743
    While Propers are not "minor," it may also be true that miners are often not proper.
  • True, Charles, very true - and minors themselves are often not proper -
    indeed, they can be quite obstreperous and improper!
  • Wait.... little hills --- young sheep?
  • I apologize: "formularies" should read as "Orations"

    (The orations are part of the Mass Formulary, but I won't quibble.)
    Thanked by 1madorganist